The human cost of change : tales from the campus about personal change fatigue, resistance, and resilience

Winter, Abigail Jean (2013) The human cost of change : tales from the campus about personal change fatigue, resistance, and resilience. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


For the last decade, one question has haunted me: what helps people to cope with large-scale organisational change in their workplace? This study explores the construct of personal change resilience, and its potential for identifying solutions to the problems of change fatigue and change resistance. The thesis has emerged from the fields of change management, leadership, training, mentoring, evaluation, management and trust within the context of higher education in Australia at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In this thesis I present a theoretical model of the factors to consider in increasing peoples’ personal change resilience as they navigate large-scale organisational change at work, thereby closing a gap in the literature on the construct of change resilience. The model presented is based on both the literature in the realms of business and education, and on the findings of the research.

In this thesis, an autoethnographic case study of two Australian university projects is presented as one narrative, resulting in a methodological step forward in the use of multiple research participants’ stories in the development of a single narrative. The findings describe the experiences of workers in higher education and emphasise the importance of considerate management in the achievement of positive experiences of organisational change.

This research makes a significant contribution to new knowledge in three ways. First, it closes a gap in the literature in the realm of change management around personal change resilience as a solution to the problem of change fatigue by presenting models of both change failure and personal change resilience. Second, it is methodologically innovative in the use of personae to tell the stories of multiple participants in one coherent tale presented as a work of ethnographic fiction seen through an autoethnographic lens. By doing so, it develops a methodology for giving a voice to those to whom change is done in the workplace. Third, it provides a perspective on organisational change management from the view of the actual workers affected by change, thereby adding to the literature that currently exists, which is based on the views of those with responsibility for leading or managing change rather than those it affects.

This thesis is intended as a practical starting point for conversations by actual change managers in higher education, and it is written in such a way as to help them see how theory can be applied in real life, and how empowering and enabling the actual working staff members, and engaging with them in a considerate way before, during and even after the change process, can help to make them resilient enough to cope with the change, rather than leaving them burned out or disengaged and no longer a well-functioning member of the institution. This thesis shows how considerately managed large-scale organisational change can result in positive outcomes for both the organisation and the individuals who work in it.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 66211
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lidstone, John & Watters, Jim
Keywords: Autoethnography, Change Fatigue, Change Resilience, Change Resistance, Communication, Ethnography, Higher Education, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Narrative, Organisational Change, Training, Trust
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The Author
Deposited On: 15 Jan 2014 03:44
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 00:55

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